Minneapolis Parks Deserve Statewide Investment
February 21, 2020 by Tom Evers
Minneapolis Parks are a statewide asset that deserve critical infrastructure funding at the capital. That’s why we’re partnering with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and the community to help support the Minneapolis delegation as they seek to fund several important projects through the bi-annual bonding process.
State general obligation bonding is a critical process wherein the state sells bonds to investors to raise money for capital projects, including university campuses, drinking water infrastructure, healthcare facilities, and parks, to list only a few. In effect, the state is “borrowing” money from bond purchasers and is responsible for paying interest on the “loan.” Traditionally, the Minnesota Legislature seeks to pass a bonding bill every two years to finance important statewide investments and to update critical public assets. With a large budget surplus and near-historically low interest rates, many believe that there is no better time than now to make much needed investments in our state.
This year, Governor Walz’s “Local Jobs and Projects” bonding budget includes three of the Park Board’s bonding priorities: $3M for the Great Northern Greenway River Link, $12.35M for the Grand Rounds Missing Link, and $11.25M for revitalizing North Commons Park into a regional asset. While we support all of the Park Board’s bonding priorities, we are particularly advocating for the River Link request because we’re bringing a $1.5M match for the Overlook phase through our RiverFirst Campaign. This project, along with Water Works ($5M requested for the second, Riverside, phase), depend on public funding for future phases.
In communities around the state, similar projects receive significant state and regional funding so that kids and families can experience the benefits of well-funded park infrastructure. Minneapolis children should benefit from statewide investments as well.
Additionally, we are working with a coalition of metro regional park agencies to secure a $15M bonding request for regional parks, which would include $3.9M in state bonds (with a $1.3M Met Council match) for three Minneapolis projects, including Hall’s Island/Graco Park in the RiverFirst area. Unlike most other bonding requests, this effort bridges many districts represented by both Democrats and Republicans and is an important investment into a regional park system that sees more than 59 million visits each year, far more than the total visits to the State Park system. With heavy usage comes additional costs to maintain much-beloved space.
Our work this session will include visits with the Minneapolis delegation, especially those sponsoring bonding bills (Reps. Lee and Dehn, Sen. Champion); participating in bonding tours; and testifying before committees, if asked. If you are interested in getting involved to support our work at the Capital, please email me at TEvers@MplsParksFoundation.org.
It is critical to our work that we advocate for adequate public funding streams that can be enhanced with philanthropy. The Minneapolis Parks Foundation’s mission is most effective when public and private investments align in support of broader community-informed initiatives. This year’s legislative agenda does just that.